If you are a coffee lover, you likely perk up when you hear that it improves health. But you may also wonder if you are doing damage when you hear negative reports. Research on coffee uncovers its benefits and also some dangers in having too much. Knowing both the pros and cons of drinking coffee will help you make the best choice for your personal health.
The Good and the Bad
Past studies have shown that heavy coffee consumption could lead to an increased risk for heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, recent studies do not show a connection between moderate coffee consumption and the risk for heart disease or cancer. Coffee has been found to boost memory, improve concentration, and decrease fatigue.
The antioxidants in coffee appear to be associated with its major health benefits. They may help to protect brain cells and reduce the risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. These antioxidants have also been found to make cells more sensitive to insulin, which improves regulation of blood sugar. Although, other studies have shown that the caffeine has the opposite effect on blood sugar, so the influences of regular coffee on insulin sensitivity may be more complicated.
Many of the negative effects of coffee drinking are due to the caffeine. There is evidence that coffee can increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, and decrease bone density. The caffeine in coffee can also lead to irritability, anxiety, stomach upset, and a lack of sleep. Compounds in unfiltered coffee could also increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Drinking Coffee for Health
So how much coffee is too much? Moderate consumption is defined as about four cups of coffee or 400 milligrams of caffeine. The negative effects of coffee are found with an intake of five or more cups per day. Some people have a greater sensitivity to the caffeine and some health conditions and medications influence coffee’s effect on the body.
If you are healthy and have not been advised by a medical professional to avoid coffee, enjoy it in moderation like you would any other food or drink. The negative effects become a greater risk when you begin to rely on coffee to reduce fatigue. This is because your system will build up a tolerance to the caffeine over time, meaning you will need to drink more and more to get the alertness you are seeking.
Also be sure to drink your four cups or less in the morning. While the lasting effects of caffeine vary from person to person, it takes about six hours for it to leave your system. Drinking coffee too late in the day can disrupt your ability to sleep, which will then cause you to drink more coffee the next day, and lead to an ongoing cycle of overconsumption.
A warm up not only reduces your risk for injury. According to the American Council on Exercise, it also helps you burn calories more efficiently due to the increase in your core body temperature. As you gradually ease into movement, your muscles begin to heat up, which increases their elasticity. The blood vessels also dilate, which allows blood to move more freely, delivering oxygen to the heart and the muscles. Increased oxygen flow to the muscles facilitates a better supply of energy for exercise. Instead of experiencing a rapid increase in movement and heart rate, like what occurs when you go from no movement to intense exercise, a warm up allows the body to prepare for the activity, improving exercise performance.
What to Do to Warm Up
As long as it gradually increases your heart rate and gets the muscles moving, any activity can be used as a warm up. For strength training, it can be as simple as pedaling on a stationary bike with little resistance. If you are working out at home, try marching in place. Using the same activity you will do for your workout, but at a lower intensity, can also serve as a warm up. For example, if you are going to run, start the course with a walk or a light jog. If you plan to swim, you can tread water or use a kickboard to take a few slow laps around the pool. Once your body is warm, increase the intensity or resistance and move on to your full workout.
How Long to Warm Up
The length of your warm up can be influenced by the time of day, temperature, and type of exercise. As a general rule, your warm up should last from 5 to 10 minutes. When you are preparing for a high intensity workout, plan to do at least a 10-minute warm up. Your body will benefit from the extra time to work up to a challenging pace. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you may also need a longer warm up to help increase blood flow. This is also true when exercising in cold weather. It may take your muscles longer to warm up and improve elasticity to allow for easy movement. Once your heart rate has increased, you are breathing more heavily, and your muscles feel warm and flexible, move on to your workout.
Keep healthy meals simple with this pumpkin soup. It comes together in less than 30 minutes. It’s lower in sodium than most canned soups, and it’s packed with vitamin-rich pumpkin and flavorful herbs and spices.
Yield: 3 servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
½ tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1/8 to ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning
15 oz. canned pumpkin puree
2 cups no salt added chicken or vegetable stock
¼ tsp fine ground sea salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary for garnish (optional)
In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cayenne pepper and poultry seasoning. Cook for 30 seconds.
Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the pumpkin puree, and then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Continue to stir until pumpkin and stock are combined. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. You can also transfer the soup to a blender and puree.
Increase the heat back to medium-high. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and black pepper and serve with a sprig of rosemary for garnish.
Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 89; Total Fat 2.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.3 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 275 mg; Carbohydrate 14.1 g; Fiber 6.3 g; Sugar 5.8 g; Protein 4 g
The holidays are meant to be celebrated with delicious foods, but too much celebrating can deter you from your fitness goals. Make the season more nutritious with a few simple steps that will lighten up holiday meals.
Go Heavy on the Herbs and Spices
It’s easy to turn to butter, cream, and salt to flavor food. While these ingredients in moderation can fit into a healthy diet, you can save yourself hundreds of calories by turning to herbs and spices for flavor. Fresh thyme, rosemary and a little garlic mixed into mashed potatoes can help you reduce the salt and butter while still keeping it delicious. For sweeter dishes, like sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce, add cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. The more flavorful the dish, the less sugar or butter you will need to add to make it satisfying.
Keep Things Simple
The more options that are available, the more foods you are going to want to try, whether you are truly hungry or not. Pick a few favorites and keep it simple. Despite the fact that these foods may be higher in calories, you can still follow a healthy eating plan when it comes to nutrients and food groups. Make sure you have protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat and plenty of vegetables. Serve appropriate portion sizes to limit calories. Also cut fat and calories by keeping preparations simple. Roasted root vegetables and dark leafy greens are the perfect side dishes for a holiday meal. Balance healthy, simple recipes with the heavier holiday favorites.
Make Easy Swaps
There are simple swaps you can make that will save calories, sodium, and saturated fat. If you snack on nuts with pre-dinner cocktails, add in some unsalted, raw varieties. For recipes that call for butter when sautéing, try substituting half or all of it with olive oil. Add pureed fruits like banana, applesauce, or fresh pineapple to naturally sweeten recipes like sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, or baked goods like muffins. Use whole grain bread in stuffing and choose whole grain rolls. When making cream sauces, try substituting some of the cream with unsalted chicken or vegetable stock. They will thicken in a similar way and once it’s mixed into casseroles, it’s difficult to tell the difference.
A moderate amount of stress is motivating, but it can quickly increase and have a negative impact on health. While you can't always cut out stress completely, controlling stress and incorporating activities that reduce it are key to maintaining good health.
Find a Pet
From petting a dog to watching fish swim in an aquarium, animals have been shown to have a calming effect on humans. It doesn't have to be your pet, visit a neighbor or spend some time with the office cat. Research shows that as little as five minutes of interaction can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pets have also been found to improve heart health by reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure. Time with pets has also been found to decrease depression and lower anxiety.
Meditate for Five Minutes
Meditation doesn't take a big time commitment. Simple, deep breathing and clearing your mind for a few minutes can calm you. Regular meditation has been shown to lower heart rate, promote normal blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones. It also helps to clear your mind, which can lead to creativity. Set a timer, sit quietly in a place with no distractions, breath deeply, and relax.
Think About Your Happy Place
A short meditation practice, called visualization, can distract you from a stressful situation and has been found to promote muscle relaxation. Thinking about a peaceful scene in nature or at the beach, or even picturing yourself accomplishing a goal, are all forms of visualization. Simply meditate on your personal happy place. If you don’t know where to start, guided visualization can help. Listen to a CD or find an app for your Smartphone. It only takes a few minutes and guided visualization has been found to decrease blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones.
Laughing is unlike other methods for reducing stress because it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, an increase in breathing rate sends more oxygen to the muscles. It’s a response similar to what happens when you exercise. Once the laughing ends and your breathing and heart rate return to normal, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized.